Law Center for Better Housing Honors Professors Laurie Mikva and Daniel Linna


Faculty Awards law Scholarship Social Justice Technology

The Law Center for Better Housing (LCBH) has awarded Laurie Mikva, clinical assistant professor of law; and Daniel Linna, senior lecturer and director of the Law and Technology Initiative, for their work with the organization. Both have demonstrated outstanding service to help Chicagoland renters access justice in a corrupt housing system.

Mikva, who is also the director of the Tenant Advocacy Clinic, is receiving the 2023 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award. She and her students at the Bluhm Legal Clinic have volunteered on 20 eviction defense cases since 2018. Over the last two years, they successfully dismissed and sealed nine cases and negotiated $17,200 of waived rent. In one case, Mikva and her students helped a young mother who had fallen behind on rent due to unexpected costs after the birth of her second child. Through the clinic, they negotiated a pay-and-stay agreement and restored her tenancy. They also secured $10,570 of rental assistance to cover her back rent. Volunteers like Mikva and her students ensure LCBH can take similar cases, so more families remain stably housed.

“I am very honored to receive this award,” Mikva says. “LCBH has been a wonderful partner for me and my students over many years. The work it does for low-income tenants is inspiring and so very necessary.”

The LCBH is honoring Linna with the 2023 Justice Innovation Award. Rentervention, a free LCBH online tool that uses technology and legal advice to increase renters’ access to justice, has served more than 30,000 renters since 2019. Linna and his students strengthened the platform by developing an automated system to gather online legal information so renters can learn about their rights and solve their housing problems. Last year, Rentervention helped a young mother draft a letter to her landlord, demanding timely repairs on her stove. Through chatting with Rentervention, she learned she could withhold a portion of rent if her landlord did not remedy the issue within two weeks. Nearly two months later, the tenant’s landlord still refused to make repairs and threatened to file a retaliatory eviction, so Rentervention connected her with an LCBH staff attorney. The attorney informed the tenant she could not be evicted for demanding repairs in her unit and offered to speak with her landlord. Less than two days later, her landlord replaced her stove and did not evict her.

“There are abundant opportunities to use computational technologies to improve legal-services delivery, legal institutions, and access to justice. But this won’t happen as a byproduct of technological innovation,” Linna says. “Lawyers must intentionally drive innovation in law forward. In doing so, lawyers must partner with technologists to design, develop, and validate technologies that scale access to the law and justice consistent with the values and goals of the law. It has been an honor to contribute to the Rentervention chatbot and other LCBH projects and to work with Conor Malloy, LCBH supervising attorney and Rentervention director. Rentervention and LCBH make a difference for people every day, improving access to justice. I am thankful for the opportunities to work on Rentervention and LCBH projects with Northwestern Law and Computer Science students, Northwestern Computer Science Professor Kris Hammond, Innovation Lab co-instructor, research collaborator Purdue University Professor Sabine Brunswicker, and Purdue University students. We are working on doing much more!”

Linna and Mikva will receive their awards during LCBH’s 2023 fall benefit on October 19th at Buddy Guy’s Legends. LCBH has a rich history with Northwestern. Three of the ten volunteer attorneys who founded the organization in 1980 have ties to Northwestern University, including professors Leonard Rubinowitz, Jack Doppelt, and Sheldon Zenner (BS’ 74, JD’ 78).

Shiva Kooragayala (JD ‘20), an LCBH board member, said that the work Mikva and the LCBH do saves lives. “While at Northwestern for law school, I spent two years participating in Laurie’s Civil Litigation Clinic, where I worked on a number of eviction defense matters,” he says. “I saw firsthand how housing is a platform for people to improve their lives.” He says that at LCBH, he gained hands-on litigation skills that proved essential in handling his own pro bono cases. “Getting access to housing and keeping it once you have it is so important. That’s why I continue working with LCBH to ensure more renters remain stably housed.”

For over 40 years, LCBH has advocated for renters for whom safe, affordable, and decent housing is out of reach. LCBH is the only non-profit legal aid provider focusing solely on Chicago-based low- and moderate-income renters facing eviction. By providing free legal and supportive services, they ensure more renters remain stably housed.

To register for the 2023 Fall Benefit, click here.